All Posts By

Peter Malone Elliott

Shirley: Film Review

By Essential Viewing

Released – June 5th, 2020 Written By – Sarah Gubbins, based on the novel by Susan Scarf Merrell Directed By – Josephine Decker Starring – Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman Runtime – 107 minutes Genre – Drama / Thriller What the hell did I just watch? Every now and again as a cinephile, you’ll come across a movie that’s as thought-provoking as it is challenging—an experimental piece of filmmaking that’s visually arresting, pushes the boundaries of genre-blending and thematic discourse, and is altogether difficult to digest. It’s the type of picture that is so heightened stylistically in its execution that it will inspire a love-it-or-hate-it reaction from audiences, with no room for anything in between. It’s akin to a Cubist painting—conceptually, there’s absolutely no way it should work. And yet? It does. Not only does Shirley succeed in this regard on all fronts, but it serves as…

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Mrs. America: Series Review

By Essential Viewing

The antihero. In the current zeitgeist of prestige TV dramas, lots of protagonists are hackneyed attempts at this archetype, fashioned by series creators looking to have their content regarded as “edgy” and “different.” These irritating, half-baked antiheroes oftentimes strain an audience’s tolerance, patience, and engagement, which altogether defeats the purpose of having an antihero at the heart of a show in the first place. It takes a particularly skilled writer to craft an (actually) interesting antihero, one you vehemently disagree with on basically everything, and yet, are fascinated by. When a TV writer concocts a lead character that nails this “secret sauce” recipe—someone that you despise but still find utterly fascinating as you immerse yourself trying to figure them out—that’s when you know that the series is worth its weight in gold. Mrs. America is that series. And, boy oh boy, is Phyllis Schlafly the spitting image of what it…

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Motherless Brooklyn: Film Review

By Essential Viewing

Released – November 1st, 2019 Written By – Edward Norton, based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem Directed By – Edward Norton Starring – Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin Runtime – 144 minutes Genre – Crime / Drama If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time of this COVID-19 shutdown taking in film and television, running the gamut from brand new titles released via streaming to catching up on stone-cold classics (here’s looking at you, The West Wing). With this bit of extra freedom to let my analytical film theory brain ruminate, I’ve noticed a trend—every year, there is at least one movie released that I really love which is met with mixed critical reviews and/or poor box office returns. For example, in 2016 it was The Nice Guys, 2017 it was Only the Brave, and in 2018 it was Bad Times at…

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Ozark: Season 3 Review

By Essential Viewing

The hour-long crime drama. It’s a genre of television as timeless as chocolate cake—there are countless amounts of them made every year, but when you get a taste of a truly spectacular one? There’s nothing more delicious. The third season of Ozark, Netflix’s tentpole series starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, is a perfect example of this. It’s not another Betty Crocker—this, my friends, is a masterpiece worthy of a Michelin star chef. Ozark’s first season premiered on the juggernaut streaming service in 2017 and is an increasingly rare instance in “Peak TV” where every season has been better than the previous. Not only has its viewership and industry prestige increased with each installment, but so has its critical acclaim. Season 1 clocked in at a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes with 5 total Emmy nominations, while Season 2 arrived with a 76% and 9 total Emmy nominations (including Best Drama…

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Uncut Gems: Film Review

By Essential Viewing

Released – December 25th, 2019 Written By – Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie Directed By – Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie Starring – Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox Runtime – 135 minutes Genre – Crime / Drama The comedian in a dramatic role. While it is always catnip for an audience to see a beloved funnyman (or woman) stretch their acting muscles and enter new creative territory, the end results are oftentimes mixed—sometimes it works, and other times it really doesn’t. When it’s successful? The results are gorgeous, unexpected, and incredibly engrossing to watch. When it’s not? Well. . . buckle up. Adam Sandler’s performance as Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems not only falls into the former category, but also is, bar none, the best performance of the year. That’s right. Adam Sandler. Best performance of the year. Uncut Gems is a pulse-pounding, frenetic, panic-attack-on-celluloid crime thriller that follows…

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Honey Boy: Film Review

By Essential Viewing

Released – November 27th, 2019 Written By – Shia LaBeouf Directed By – Alma Har’el Starring – Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe Runtime – 94 minutes Genre – Drama “Write what you know.” Every writer in the universe has heard this supposedly sage advice at one point in their careers. A good portion of them have probably bristled at those words, thinking it is incredibly limiting—that if you’re not exclusively writing something based on direct life experiences you’re somehow “lying” and are inferior as an artist. And then when something like Honey Boy comes around? It’s apparent what those people are trying to say when they say that: approach your material honestly, no holds barred. Honey Boy is an emotionally raw, beautifully poetic look at the tumultuous relationship between a young actor (Otis) and his abusive father (James), and the toll it takes on Otis’ mental health during his maturation into manhood. It…

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Ford v Ferrari: Film Review

By Essential Viewing

Released – November 22nd, 2019 Written By – Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller Directed By – James Mangold Starring – Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts Runtime – 119 minutes Genre – Sports / Drama “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” Sure, it’s an incredibly clichéd expression, oftentimes utilized by grumpy older people whose best days are long in the rear-view mirror. But you know what this turn-of-phrase also is? An apt description of Ford v Ferrari, the most recent entry in the filmography of Oscar-nominated filmmaker James Mangold. And my-oh-my is it a sight to behold. Ford v Ferrari follows famed automotive designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles as they attempt to construct a race car for Ford Motors in 1966 capable of defeating Ferrari at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. A David vs. Goliath story of truly…

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The Work of Debra Granik

By Essential Viewing

Debra Granik is a filmmaker whose Oscar-nominated breakout film—2010’s Winter’s Bone—cemented her place as a creative powerhouse of independent cinema and also launched the career of one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Jennifer Lawrence. Her recognition in the industry only deepened with her next two films, the 2014 documentary Stray Dog (2014) and Leave No Trace (2018). All three films by Granik are lyrical, meditative, and emotionally resonant pieces anchored by an unmatched grit and unflinching realism. For any aspiring filmmaker, Granik’s three works give unparalleled insight into the process of creating impactful, complex, and layered character-study dramas that occupy your mind long after you’ve seen them. Probably Granik’s most well-known film, Winter’s Bone follows an Ozark Mountain teenager, Ree Dolly, as she is forced to navigate the seedy underbelly of her rural community in search of her drug-dealer father who has put their family home up as bond…

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The Work of Jeremy Saulnier

By Essential Viewing

After his breakout film Blue Ruin—which he made for a minuscule $420,000—premiered to rave reviews at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight, Jeremy Saulnier has released three more critically beloved and admired pieces: Green Room, Hold the Dark, and the first two episodes True Detective season three. Each of these four works are masterclasses in genre filmmaking and provide wonderfully specific “craft lessons” that creatives at all levels should take note of. Diving right in. . . . Blue Ruin is a wonderfully sparse, emotionally resonant, and excruciatingly (in the best possible way) tense thriller that follows Dwight, a soft-spoken, haunted homeless man. After learning the man who murdered his parents will soon be released from prison, Dwight is sent down the path of vengeance with increasingly brutal consequences for him and all those in his orbit. Here’s the thing about Blue Ruin: in no way is this concept…

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